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“I’ll always remember. The chill of November, the news of the fall, the sounds in the hall, the clock on the wall - ticking away... Seize the day, I heard him say: ‘Life will not always be this way. Look around. Hear the sounds. Cherish your life, while you’re still around.’”
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a’flying. And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.”
Living To Learn To Love
Eight P.M., chimed a clock. I sit, sitting - crouching hunched as I sit sitting on the toilet: contemplating, considering considerately; I wondered, why hadn’t I done anything for a girl on Valentine’s Day since fourth grade? “For who, what could I do?” I remembered what and decided who. Knitting, as my Dad’s mother--paternal grandmother--had taught me two years prior. For a girl I hadn’t really talked to, but liked more than anyone else I could think of. “I could knit her a scarf.” And instead of comprehending A Tale Of Two Cities which I’d elected to read that eighth-grade winter, I knitted to the audio-book only to fail the test three times until I at last passed with a fourth attempt. A sacrifice I certainly didn’t mind. Finally, after arduously assembling a blue-medley camouflage-esque scarf in less than six weeks, the Thursday before Valentine’s Day rolls around. I’ve got the scarf gift-bagged: several feet long and one wide, rolled up alongside a Rubik’s Cube, some candy or chocolate of some kind, and a notebook sheet covered front-and-back with my handwriting. Arrive to school for another day to pass, although not quite as any other day, of course.
Sixth period. Symphonic Band at my middle school. I was sweatin’ some. With ten minutes remaining, I told Mr. Steve Winslow that I needed to go to Keyboarding early, but he insisted that I also needed a permissive pass and made me stay. With this middle school band of mine, I had the reputation of always being the last to leave; I was the first to leave that day. I packed my clarinet more quickly than ever before and rushed to my next class.
Seven minutes to seventh period. I’d made it there in under two: just before she did, just as I’d hoped. I set the gift-sack upon her work-station’s computer tower and sat down at mine--a person or two right on the row behind--to wait watchfully until she entered, saw the gift, and giggled gleefully. She slipped off her purse or book-bag and whatever else. She sat down to work, ignoring the present. I was still shaking.
Five minutes after the bell had rung. I shot up and heavily yet weakly waltzed over and grasped the note from the edge of the gift-bag, sliding it onto the edge of her computer’s keyboard. I returned to my seat as she paused before adjusting it, relocating it. Back to its perch atop the gift-sack. And I understood: not yet. I calmed down and did mediocre keyboarding work. “Like one of those Space Monkeys: you do the thing you’re trained to do.”
Four chimes of an electronic bell. Class ends, school’s over, and as she turns around for walking out before I stand up to gather myself, I ask something and she says she’ll look at it when she gets home. And she did.
One day later. Back in the same classroom, she gives me a response letter; taped to the envelope, a happy little Tootsie Pop. She was dismissed early, no more than ten minutes into the period. Odd. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. Hickman firmly suggested I wait until after class--after school--to open it. Fine.
Two hours pass. I’ve read it my third, fourth, fifth time. I have since lost that response letter, although I relatively remember a sum of its parts; she was so sweet--tolerant, even--in calling me a gentleman and playfully humorous in joking that she couldn’t crochet a single stitch! Also, kind and straightforward in explaining she wasn’t allowed to have a boyfriend. Claiming, that is.
Because, you see, I heard not long after that she was dating an old buddy of mine. Thereafter, I essentially pestered her occasionally on an online artist-network we’re members of; I suppose I was being somewhat obsessive-compulsive. I liked her. But not for much longer.
Summer slows slowly into my first days of high school. First week flies by, leaving no bumps or bruises. The second Monday of ninth grade, in Mr. Bob Mackey’s Pre-AP Geometry class. A girl who’d moved here a month or three into eighth grade was in there; we’d talked somewhat in Mrs. Marian Ray’s Pre-AP Algebra 1 back at my middle school, and she was nice. I never realized I’d like her.
So that second Monday--not one week into the new year--I nervously asked her out... Not allowed to have a boyfriend. My heart laughed while my mind cried. I really liked her. Enough that I asked again a few months later; that was a no. She probably still thinks me some sort of psychotic pervert. Of course, that I knitted her a Valentine’s Day scarf too didn’t help.
I did. Bright orange, over the course of months, to be delivered the Thursday before Valentine’s Day with a Hallmark card and some candy - never found a Rubik’s cube in time. Gave her a gift-bag in Geometry, where she sat directly in front of me. In there, all she took time to examine was the card: “Thanks, Hunter, that’s very sweet of you.” Almost as if she was fighting a choke of vomit, she spit those words out as sincerely as she tried. And in the moment, it felt good, although I was still not yet at ease. I think Mr. Mackey noticed that I was still shaking as he glanced into my eyes throughout his lecture, as he typically does - or did, when I attended his class which I loved. I thought to say “When he was my teacher”, but in fact he still is, when I go and visit him as I exploit convenient opportunities.
She took it to her fourth period, Biology, where a buddy of mine watched her take out the chocolate. She simply didn’t notice any thing else in the bottom of the sack... until on her bus home, when she pulled out the bright orange scarf in front of a lot of our mutual friends. I wasn’t there, but I heard about it: disgusted, not delighted. Myself and many others thought it a nice scarf. Evidently too nice.
That school year disappears. And I don’t forget about “scarf girl number two”, temporarily, until a month into tenth grade.
Weeks into tenth grade. Mr. Jason Snyder’ Pre-AP English Two classroom of sophomores, watching video-announcements on a Friday morning; I’m knitting, because it’s productive and because I can. Two girls in my row and to my right notice; they’re stupefied. They each ask me to knit them something.
So I get started on two scarves--one the same camouflage-esque blue-medley, the other the same bright orange--with the intention of giving both on the Thursday before Valentine’s Day. With a month remaining, I found out the one who’d been sitting closer was only joking, which was a relief - two gifts to two girls for Valentine’s Day didn’t make sense anyway.
The other girl, though, was serious: she is a fashionista. I did finish her scarf, even worked on it in our Chemistry class some; as I insisted on finishing it as soon as possible, she gently assured me I should take my time. Still, I had plans of my own.
Texas had a ridiculously ridiculous snow day on that second Thursday of February; perfect timing, I thought. Nothing but the scarf this year; she’d asked for it and I didn’t want to creep her out. I felt I had a better chance. I didn’t.
In Mrs. Keyes’ Chemistry lab as the town if not the whole state is drenched in clouds over the ground, I presented her with the scarf, rolled and wrapped like a giant piece of candy with the paper twisted and tied at the ends. She was indeed delighted. Until I asked her to “the movies or something sometime.” I don’t recall her response specifically, something about another guy from her old school she still likes: a no. Her FaceBook relationship status still hasn’t changed from anything but “Single.”
By then, I’d taken it twice before. And that I didn’t feel so strongly any more if not simply so strongly towards her made it easy to get over it. No longer liked scarf girl number one, had not a chance with scarf girl number two, and was no longer interested in number three. Then, the following summer--this past summer--everything changed. A change of seasons.
I’d befriended a freshman trombone-player (tromboner for short) and become his mentor of sorts. He became, in essence, my little brother. I met his big sister in mid-April, one night as us and the KHS Band were leavin’ for Corpus Christi. A month later, once summer started, she and I started. Talking. Subtle at first, playing video games online together, then chatting about books and movies and music and art and... Everything. We got to know each other between June and July, texting and more, even going on a couple dates with the little brother (hers literally and mine figuratively) in tow.
Early on, she’d mentioned she collected scarves and I gave her the scarf story in a nutshell. She was positively thrilled in an “AWW, CUTE” way. A month later, I started on her scarf. This time, a grey green, chosen based on a line from a story of hers: “Out in front of me was an olive green sea.” I love that line.
We were supposed to go on our third date, this time without her little brother, on the last day of July - a Saturday. Unfortunately, she was sick. So Sunday, August 1st, I wrapped up the scarf in a familiar tootsie-roll fashion and called the little brother to ask if they were busy, if I could drop something off. Dad drove me over to their place and dropped me off around the corner to hand-deliver it. She was out to a movie, but little brother took it promising to give it to her for me.
She arrived home and was definitely delighted. When I sent her a link to the story of our friendship wherein it was not revealed I was talking about her until the very end, I got a “Thanks but no thanks.” I fell in and out of love in under three months. We’re still friends.
I’ve started on the fifth scarf, for someone new.
I am fair and unfair, fairly unfair. I exist, infinite and inevitable. I may be full yet unfulfilled. I may be cruel, but wholly true; I often may be harsh as a musky marsh. At times no more pleasant than an awful present. But like a coin, with two sides as everything has two sides. A circular cycle, I’m ever-present everywhere, yet only as relevant as relevancy can be. Seasons change, so too can I. I possess many as they possess me; I see value in them they do not see. Do not waste me or I have wasted you.
Hope Springs Eternal
“I never wanted to become someone like him: so secure. Content to live each day just like the last. I was sure I knew that this was not for me; and I wanted so much more, far beyond what I could see. So I swore that I’d never be someone like him.
“So many years have passed since I proclaimed my independence: my mission, my aim, and my vision so secure. Content to live each day like it’s my last. It’s wonderful, to know that I could be something more than what I dreamed, far beyond what I could see. Still I swear that I’ll never be someone like him.”
Without these events, how would I have realized uniqueness in everyone--primarily myself, although also humans as a humanity--or concluded that no body has power over my past and future, my fated destiny and destined fate. I shout it from the rooftops and the cavernous mountains reiterate. I shout it from plateaus while clouds shine and a sun abounds. They too will never cease whispering what only our spirits hear.
My anxious impatience has evolved into a humble humility of glorious imperturbability. A passive passivity of silent lucidity. This experience is a more personal one that has proven a defining factor of my soul and self. I could keep wishing I were more normal and regret not understanding sociability better until I suddenly find too that I regret regretting. What is normal?
A normal man.
Days by hours and minutes by seconds,
Passes time with splendid wonder.
Every stitch an ounce of thought,
Many rows some pounds of pondering.
With great care, hands have beckoned;
Waves of stitches, a web of thoughts,
They all concur like lightning and thunder.
If you live every day to its fullest
-As if it were your very last-
Someday you’ll be proven right.
Tragedy not that life ends so soon,
But that we wait so long to begin it.
We’ve all been birthed with such great purpose,
To wonderful lifetimes made for living.
Shame when breath is only sustenance,
We go on to live but for nothing.
Years by months and weeks by days,
Days by hours and minutes by moments:
We shall leave none to spare,
For just as naked trees lack fruit,
Life without living is much too bare.
Luxuries that fulfill our time here
Inevitably end up depriving us of it.
Millenia by centuries and decades by years,
Months by weeks and days by hours,
All the seconds of every minute
No more than faded memories.
Thought per thought and stitch per stitch,
A knitted scarf is nothing more;
Stitch per stitch and thought per thought,
Ideas in flocks like leaves in fall;
A world of wonders all we’ve got,
So much beauty, all in all.